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After Life

Arata Iura , Erika Oda , Hirokazu Koreeda    Unrated   DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 89.95
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This unpretentious, endearing film is a modest triumph. Based on interviews with more than 500 people about the one memory they would choose to take with them to heaven, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda has modeled a unique blend of documentary and fiction that addresses the vagaries of memory but also what it means to make films. After Life transpires in a sort of way station where the dead must select one memory to be re-created on film and taken on with them forever, relinquishing everything else. Over the span of a week, a dedicated group of caseworkers tease out self-deceptions as well as real epiphanies from 22 different lives. An old woman remembers reuniting with her husband on a crowded bridge after World War II; a man recollects the breeze felt on a tram ride the day before summer vacation; a successful man faces his own treachery. Remembering becomes a courageous act in the casual exposition of this lovely film. --Fionn Meade

From the Back Cover

From the award-winning director Kore-eda Hirokazu (Maborosi) comes a remarkably touching film exploring the profound human need to discover meaning in everyday life.

Many films have offered insight into the unexplainable realm of the after life. In Kore-eda's thought-provoking vision, the newly deceased find themselves in a way station somewhere between Heaven and Earth.

With the help of dedicated caseworkers, each soul is given three days to choose one cherished memory from their life that they will relive for eternity. As the film reveals, recognizing happiness and finding a life's worth of meaning in a single event is no simple task. If Heaven is only a single memory from your life, as Kore-eda suggests, which memory would you choose?

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a wonderful life June 21 2004
The Japanese title of this film is "Wonderful Life," and wonderful it is.
Kore-Eda uses the premise of choosing one memory for all eternity as a compelling way to explore themes of memory, closure, loss and existential meaning. The film starts out with interesting stories of unique memories recounted by actors and non-actors. A small plot develops as the story follows the case of an older, slightly arrogant retired salaryman who believes he lived a meaningful life but is having a hard time choosing his one memory. Keep in mind that people who hated this film probably prefer plot-driven dramas. "After Life" is driven by quiet observations, with a small plot driving the film's main statement.
The thing that impressed me the most was Kore-eda's representation of heaven or the after life. Kore-eda's heaven evokes and celebrates so many aspects of Japanese daily life -- the school life of children, the driving productivity of salarymen, and the quiet, contented simplicity of the elderly population. The staff of counselors at this halfway-house to eternity scrub the floors and tidy up their office first thing in the morning the way my Japanese mother remembers doing at her school in 1950s Tokyo. Like salarymen, they discuss their increasingly heavy case load and the film follows the tense timeline of their one-week deadline to recreate and film the memories. The film also captures the beauty of falling autumn leaves and sakura (cherry blossoms) through the eyes of an elderly woman with Alzheimers.
There is no idealism in Kore-eda's heaven. The staff's building looks like an old, run-down school house and the props they use to film their staged memories have a summer camp, high school production feel to it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Memory June 9 2004
_After Life_ was one of my numerous unopened DVDs that sat upon my one of my shelves untouched by human hands but caressed by a large amount of dust. Bored, I finally decided to view it today and I was not disappointed. The plot of the film is quite simple: Individuals who have recently passed away are asked by an after life bureaucratic bureau to select one incident from their lives to take along with them to the next world as the only thing that they will remember. However, instead of taking their memories along with them in their brains, a short film is made instead.
If one is looking for a film with even a modicrum of action, this is not the film. For the most part this film has the feel of a documentary which, in a way, it actually is. 500 people were asked to relate what memory they would like to take to the next world, and the result is this film. In fact some of the "actors" in this film are not actors at all, but individuals expressing their favorites memories which includes an old man telling of when he was given water and rice by US soldiers, an old woman's memory of the dresses her older brother purchased her, and a young girl remembering how her mother cleaned her ears. There are also other individuals who feel as if they do not have any good memories so they have to search through their lives to find a spark of goodness.
A great film that not only touches on what is important to various human beings, but on how memory and fiction mingle.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
When I rented this movie, the premise sounded very compelling. The more the movie played out, however, the more difficult it became to accept. Most of the movie was so slow moving that it gave me time to wonder:
Why they would go to the trouble of recreating a "treasured moment" when they seemed to have the real thing already on video?
What would a persons eternity be like reliving a single moment over and over?
Many memories become golden by years of reflection. Even more damaging, if a person's memory was wiped clean of everything except their chosen moment, the moment itself wouldn't be worth reliving once let alone an infinite number of times with no memory of what led up to that point. (The movie comes close, perhaps, to defining a type of hell.)
Technically, the acting was mostly only marginally good and the direction seemed very uninspiring. The English subtitles, fortunately, were of very good contrast and easy to read.
The IDEA of the movie gave my wife and I something to discuss. It is for that reason I gave it two stars instead of one. But we could have had just as good a discussion by merely having read the description on the DVD box without having to waste over 90 minutes viewing this very slow movie that, I feel, could have been MUCH better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...ponder your own existence while breathing. May 19 2004
After Life is a thought provoking film that depicts 22 individuals who have been sent to a place between the living and the hereafter. This place functions as a reflective and meditative station where three counselors are to guide the 22 characters through questions to remember their most enjoyable moment while alive. However, there is one stipulation to this task for each individual, which limits their contemplation of their memories to three days. The following step for the three counselors is to recreate the memory of each individual through shooting a film that resembles their fond memory. After Life is shot with a grainy texture and the cinematography reminds the audience of the spontaneous camera movement of documentary styled films. This is a part of Koreeda's deliberate direction as he wants to depict his brilliant vision and persuade the audience to ponder their own existence while breathing.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars definitely in the top 5 movie ever made!
just watch it.... unbelievable and lifechanging... a masterpiece for sure
Published on Feb. 2 2005
5.0 out of 5 stars Turning into a single precious memory...Heaven?
"You'll be staying with us for one week. Everyone gets a private room. Just relax and enjoy yourself. But while you're here, there is one thing you must do. Read more
Published on Dec 2 2003 by Daniel J. Hamlow
4.0 out of 5 stars One single memory
"After Life" opens up to things that some of us may wonder about. The movie is truely magical. "Where do we go when we die? Read more
Published on July 24 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars They should let us give it more stars
This film is one of my top 5. It is one of the films you can watch several times and still walk away with something new. The acting is beyond oscar caliber. Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and moving
The recently deceased are transported to a way station en route to the afterlife, at which they are required to select a single memory in which they will exist for eternity. Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2002 by David Bonesteel
1.0 out of 5 stars This is typical of why Japanese films are so terrible
...P>There were 3 main things that were so bad about this film. 1: The way it was filmed, 2: The premise behind it, 3: The execution of this premise. Read more
Published on Nov. 24 2002 by Tim Kaiser
4.0 out of 5 stars Memories of a past life
After life is an extremely strange film.
First of all it is not your typical Japanese odd ball.It is actually very straight forward. Read more
Published on Nov. 3 2002 by Kuroneko1
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed
This has become one of my favorite films. Just when you think the film is about to end, it goes in a surprising direction and touches you even more deeply. Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2002 by Bill
1.0 out of 5 stars Just not interesting
I don't know whether I just didn't "get it" or something but this film was downright boring to me. I had a hard time focusing my attention. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2002 by A H Booches
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